The things the "no socialists" say

Submitted by on 9 August, 2002 - 10:52

By Cathy Nugent

The introduction of the euro will bring further attacks on workers.

Stopping the euro at Dover will not reduce the volume of attacks on workers. Only the exact nature and form of the attacks will be different, depending on whether Britain is in or out of the eurozone. However, New Labour, as the loyal heirs to Thatcherism, are not likely to stop their programme of cuts and privatisations, or suddenly decree the unions are free to organise, just because they've been beaten on the euro issue.
The euro means, among other things, explicit limits on welfare spending. That's why we say "no to the euro".

Well, first let us not forget that, in many ways, social provision - working hours, pension rights, etc - is better in continental Europe than it is here!
That said, the euro has been and will be accompanied by a drive for more and more cuts. But can you really say that without the euro, but all else being equal, that programme would not have gone ahead in Europe? I don't think so.
It is not the euro which drives European governments, such as those of Berlusconi or Aznar, to make attacks, but right wing politics! If the euro or even the EU were dismantled tomorrow those government would go on making attacks.

A defeat on the euro will be a blow to British capitalism and New Labour. It will improve the prospects for a fightback in Britain.

A defeat for New Labour will also, be a moral "victory" for that section of the ruling class which opposes the euro - people like Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black - but likes low business taxes, a flexible labour force and anti-trade union laws - for the Tories, the "little englanders" and the far right. Do we want to participate in, give tacit backing to, a victory for these people?
Any campaign which helps - inadvertently, or otherwise - to tie the workers to the cause of these people will seriously debilitate the labour movement's ability to see and understand its enemy, to work out its own principles and goals, to fight for its own interests.

Workers in Britain can see that the euro means capitalist cuts and want to oppose it. We shouldn't leave them to the mercy of the little englanders?

Some workers will mistrust the euro because it is a policy of the British capitalists and New Labour. They may look at people like Ken Jackson -who recently lost his job as head of the Amicus union - see a fervent pro-euro attitude and equate it with business unionism. But equally many workers will want to vote for the euro in order to be "with the Europeans".

Socialist policy cannot be based on either of these gut responses. Our job is to rationally work out what is in the best interests of the working class and communicate that message as clearly and as effectively as we can. And most of all we must educate the working class and thereby lay the foundations for a stronger workers' movement of the future.

If neither the euro, nor the pound is in the best interests of the working class, can we express that clearly by saying "no" to the euro? Of course not! That is a muddled up, illogical message and it miseducates.

Socialists are not obliged to say either "yes" or "no". We can organise and mobilise a campaign of spoiling ballot papers, focus sharply on the need and possibility of a european-wide working class fightback: with the euro or without it, the working class goes on!

In fact, co-ordination by European workers is still very weak. So why send out mixed messages when we should be spending our energies on fighting for improved working class unity across Europe and organising around the demand to level-up social provision, union rights and so on? That has to be our priority, euro or no euro. Anything else makes no sense.

We will not be chiming in with the Tories and europhobes. Our slogan, "No to the single currency" is clearly linked with internationalist and socialist principles.
Even if you could ignore the fact that "No to the euro" - without the trimmings - is the slogan of europhobes, it is also, intrinsically, a slogan with a nationalist meaning. It means implicitly: keep the pound. It is, implicitly, anti-European. The slogan's meaning cannot be ignored, nor can it be magically reversed, by linking it to other slogans.

We cannot align ourselves, not even through partial verbal similarity, with those forces within our own national boundaries which work for international working-class disunity. The right will gain from us echoing the words of the nationalists, not the left.

The road to a Socialist United States of Europe has to be the road of building European working-class unity, of fighting one's own bourgeoisie and one's own nationalism and chauvinism, in the spirit of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, who raised the cry in 1914: "The main enemy is at home." This is the spirit we must convey - unequivocally.

The socialist voice is not a strong one. We will have no national billboard campaign, face no TV audiences on "Question Time". Most workers will not be able to distinguish the "socialist", so-called "internationalist" anti-euro campaign from that of the mainstream anti-euro campaign. The truth is that the distinction is largely an imaginary one.

The slogan "no to the euro" - especially in the context of a referendum when most people are interested, in the first place, in hearing whether you are for or against on the issue - has the effect of pushing out all other slogans.

If socialists are going to have to work hard to get a hearing, better we do that on the basis of a clearly differentiated policy which says who we are against - the bosses - and who we are for - the workers.

As an anti-capitalist you need to oppose the capitalist euro and the capitalist EU.

It has never been the policy of the Marxist socialist movement to just say "smash capitalism" and leave it at that. Nor do we oppose on principle all capitalist innovation just because it is capitalist. To do that would be to abandon independent judgement and be forever on every issue no more than a mirror image of the bosses.

An anti-capitalism which opposes all things capitalist has been the policy of other oppositional groups, such as some anarchists, but not of the Marxists.
Marxists say that a rational and humane socialist society will have to built on capitalism's development of economic life - its technology and it productive capacity to provide enough food, shelter, health etc for all.

World capitalist development has created a powerful force to change the world - the working class - which once it takes power will be organically pre-disposed to organise production democratically, in the interests of the majority, the working class, the poor and the oppressed.

Instead of saying "smash capitalism" in all situations we look at reforms and other specific proposals concretely. For instance, new technology is generally introduced by the capitalist strong enough to enforce it at the expense of the workers. It usually means job losses and speed ups. Our policy is to pose a working class alternative way forward. We say let's have the new technology, because it has the potential to make life better for us. Use it to cut the working day. But let's also have no job losses and no cuts in pay.

We look at the euro concretely too. A single currency is a good idea in the abstract. It is a reasonable and even progressive capitalist development. However we cannot endorse the euro as right now it is being introduced with cuts. We give neither confidence nor support to the dominant capitalist powers introducing the euro and all that goes with it under their rule. On the other hand if we organise a campaign of virulent opposition to its introduction we will be setting ourselves against the stream of history, be opposing the historic work of capitalist integration some of which - the breaking down of national barriers - is progressive. We will ally with little englanders and worse.

We want a Europe headed by a republican workers' government, with a currency which displays the red flag of the working class, which reorganises the economy so that we all have the material goods with which to live a good life. So let's go out and make the arguments for that!

What we think

  • For a Republican United States of Europe! Scrap the existing bureaucratic structures and replace them with a sovereign elected European Parliament with full control over all EU affairs.
  • Fight to level up working class living standards and conditions. For a common campaign for a legal 35 hour week.
  • Fight for a guaranteed decent European minimum wage.
  • For a Europe-wise emergency programme of public works to tackle unemployment and social exclusion. Workers' control of the big multinationals, to steer production toward need and to guarantee every worker the right to a decent job.
  • For Europe-wide public ownership of all the big banks, and democratic control of credit and monetary policy.
  • For the replacement of the Common Agricultural Policy with a plan worked out by workers' and small farmers' organisations, based on the public ownership of land. Food production should be geared to the needs of the world's hungry people.
  • For the abolition of VAT and the financing of public services by direct taxation.
  • Stop all the state hand-outs to big business - subsidies, tax concessions, reductions in employers' contributions for social security - and use the money to create jobs in public services.
  • Prioritise rebuilding good public services, halt all privatisation plans.
  • For free abortion facilities, freely available, everywhere.
  • For a Europe which respects the environment, putting controls on industries which pollute, phasing out nuclear power.
  • For a Europe open to the world! Free movement of people into the EU; free access for Third World exports to EU markets; a big EU aid programme, without strings to the Third World.
  • For the right to vote of all residents of EU countries.
  • Scrap the proposed Europe defence force. For the replacement of all the EU states' existing military hierarchies by people's militia. For a Europe free of nuclear weapons!
  • For a united working class. For Europe-wide shop stewards' committee in all the big multinationals and all the major industries!
  • Fight to rebuild a European international socialist movement.
  • For a Workers' United States of Europe.

See "The things the "yes socialists" say"

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